Cynthia Lai was a member of the Communist Workers Party.
Writing for the party
Historic Lessons of China’s Cultural Revolution
From The Eighties, Vol. II, No. 3;
- Mao Zedong wanted to be remembered for two things: the Cultural Revolution and the 1949 revolution. Today, the Cultural Revolution is denounced as a “period of catastrophe” by Hu Yao-bang, the General Secretary of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and now also the CPC Chairman.
- Criticizing the Cultural Revolution as a manifestation of Mao’s personal maneuvering, Wang Yer-shiu, assistant editor of the People’s Daily, said, “According to the theory of Marxism-Leninism, this kind of movement has to be explained economically. However, in the few years prior to the Cultural Revolution, the economic situation was not bad, people were satisfied. From the political standpoint, the Cultural Revolution was to oppose the capitalist-roaders. People should have felt oppressed. Why didn’t the masses feel that way? The general feeling of the masses was, the situation was pretty good. Then all of sudden, there came the Cultural Revolution. Mow everybody said that Mao initiated and led the Cultural Revolution. No one said it was led and initiated by the party.” Believing that it is too easy to manipulate the masses, he concluded that a personality cult of any leader should be opposed
- There is still controversy surrounding the events that shook China and the world in the last decade. Confusion and cynicism are prevalent among those who took part in the Cultural Revolution, or were merely influenced by it. In appraising the movement, a Canton worker who is an ex-Red Guard said, “Perhaps it went wrong because it became too violent.... But there were real problems – bureaucracy, a new bourgeoisie of party officials and intellectuals, the dilution of socialism into a variant of capitalism, the loss of revolutionary morale. I think the goals of the Cultural Revolution were valid, and the proof is that we still have these problems.” Another, a 32-year-old former Red Guard from Shanghai, added, “When I see privileges being given back to the old bourgeoisie, even the former capitalists, and how privileges are also being given to this new class of party cadres and officials, I am really outraged. When the rest of us are really having problems with housing, with jobs, with education, even with getting enough food to eat, these people are establishing a sort of neo-feudalism assuring themselves comfortable lives.... I do not want another Cultural Revolution – 10 years of turmoil did enough damage – but I think we were right in trying to smash the old system.” Not all ex-Red Guards are that positive. “We beat people, we humiliated teachers, we ransacked houses, we burned libraries and destroyed precious cultural relics, we invaded churches and temples. All these things we did in the name of freeing people from the past, but in fact we made them slaves, to something worse through our reign of terror,” lamented another. Some of the ex-Red Guards, formerly staunchest, are openly anti-communist in a country that still holds to its socialist course.